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   Paper:   The Chronicle of Higher Education
 Section:   Information Technology
    Date:   7/7/2006

Be All You Can Be
Colleges that market to military students discover they present new challenges

July 7, 2006                                                                                            online institution based in West Virginia, and University of
Registering for classes is often a hassle. But try doing it                                             Maryland University College, the continuing-education
while fighting a war.Bridget I. Ruiz did. Working at a                                                  branch of the state university, were among the early
research hospital in Egypt as a petty officer in the U.S.                                               pursuers of military students. But in the past few years, the
Navy last year, she enrolled in an online degree program                                                field of providers has become far more crowded.
in clinical laboratory sciences from the University of
Cincinnati. But just as she started registering, she was                                                Although colleges see military students as a market ripe
shipped out to Iraq to conduct research on pathogens that                                               for expansion, some observers believe that expansion
were affecting troops and civilians.                                                                    may be limited. in the long run because the armed forces'
                                                                                                        growth will most likely be capped by Congress. But in the
The desert base in Iraq had scant Internet availability. Ms.                                            meantime, the institutions with high military-student
Ruiz had to wait in long lines for her turn to use a                                                    enrollments are enjoying the ride.
computer, and even then the connection speed was the
equivalent of dial-up. She was limited to 20 minutes per                                                Tom Macon, chief executive officer of Grantham University,
session, which she divided between registering for classes                                              an online institution based in Missouri, says military
and writing e-mail messages to loved ones.                                                              students respond quickly when they find out that an
                                                                                                        institution has a flexible online program.
But Ms. Ruiz never let anyone at the university know that
her military duties were complicating her education.                                                    "They have a lot of unique needs," Mr. Macon says.
"Because I was so new to the program, I didn't want to                                                  "Sometimes they have bandwidth, sometimes they don't.
appear to be a problem," she says. "I didn't want any                                                   Sometimes they have a place to study, sometimes they
favoritism because I was in the service.”                                                               don't. And if they're going on a mission that's in the
                                                                                                        national-security interest, sometimes they can't say why."
Petty Officer Ruiz's persistence in seeking out an
education helps to explain why military personnel have                                                  'The Priority Is the Mission'
become a favorite market for colleges, and why providing                                                Colleges used to serving civilians say that working with
education to members of the armed forces presents                                                       military students can require some adjustments. As
special challenges. More and more colleges are courting                                                 students fall in and out of contact, professors and
military students to help fill their online enrollments, as the                                         administrators must remain flexible and allow them time to
military increasingly touts its educational benefits,                                                   complete their work.
including paying full tuition, and works closely with                                                   Petty Officer Ruiz was in Iraq for six weeks before being
colleges to help service personnel complete their                                                       sent back to Egypt, where she was set to begin her
education.                                                                                              University of Cincinnati online courses as she continued
Students in the military often find online programs to be the                                           her hospital work.
only way they can continue their education while serving                                                Then she was suddenly shipped to Qatar.
their country. Even troops who aren't in combat in Iraq or                                              "I basically had to start school while I was in Qatar without
Afghanistan may be sent overseas or from base to base                                                   a textbook," she says. Although she was in Qatar, her
throughout their careers, making it difficult for them to take                                          textbook was sent to Egypt. Still, she never told her
traditional courses. Instead of worrying about transferring                                             instructor about her predicament and improvised through
credits, they can study anywhere they can get Internet                                                  the beginning of the course, using a similar textbook she
access.                                                                                                 found in a library and scanning the
                                                                                                        Internet for information.
Institutions such as American Military University, a for-profit

     Grantham University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). For more information, visit or call 1-800-955-2527.
Her textbook finally caught up to her two weeks later, but the                                     count is finished in a few
complications didn't end. She was working a demanding job                                          weeks.
building mobile biomedical labs and had little time for                                            "We've recognized that they're really motivated, mature
studying.                                                                                          students," Ms. Newman says.
"It was real difficult to slip away," Ms. Ruiz says. "The priority                                 Some colleges find themselves attracting military students
is the mission there."                                                                             without even trying. The University of Cincinnati has several
And there was a 10-hour time difference between her and                                            students who are in the military, including Petty Officer Ruiz,
her classmates. While much of the work could be done when                                          even though the university has not pursued them
she made the time to do it, she was required to participate in                                     aggressively.
live chats once a week.                                                                            But Cincinnati is about to change its approach. Linda J.
"I just stayed up as late as I could at night to do my                                             Graeter, director of the university's clinical laboratory-science
homework," Ms. Ruiz says. "Sometimes I had to get up at 3                                          program, says the university is working with military liaisons
or 4 in the morning to do the chats.”                                                              to determine how to entice more students who are in the
Ms. Ruiz recently returned to the United States and is now
working at a base in Fort Worth, Tex., while completing her                                        "We're looking to put something together to meet their
studies. Overall, she says her experience with online learning                                     needs," Ms. Graeter says.
was good.                                                                                          Partnership In Flux
Choosing For-Profit Colleges                                                                       More colleges might soon be serving military students
For-profit colleges have often found it easier than nonprofit                                      through eArmyU, the most significant new partnership
ones to make the adjustment to educating those serving in                                          between the armed forces and higher education. The
the armed forces. At Touro University International, an online                                     program, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this summer,
institution based in California, about 4,000 of its 6,500                                          allows soldiers to use tuition assistance money to take online
students serve in the military. And more than half of the                                          courses through 28 colleges. It has proved popular among
nearly 11,000 students at Grantham University are in the                                           soldiers, allowing them to select courses from a wide variety
armed forces.                                                                                      of colleges and programs, instead of shopping around for
                                                                                                   different institutions.
Shenequa L. Johnson, a senior airman in the Air Force, is
stationed in Turkey as a health-services manager at the base                                       Although eArmyU is controlled by the Army, it is managed by
hospital. She recently enrolled at Grantham and is taking                                          International Business Machines. But the contract with IBM
courses in criminal justice, English, business management,                                         recently expired, so eArmyU is putting the contract out to bid
and computerinformation systems as part of the university's                                        for a new manager. The results are not expected for several
general-studies program. She switched to Grantham from                                             months.
another university because Grantham did not have any                                               L. Dian Stoskopf, director of education for the Department of
requirements for students to meet online at specific times,                                        the Army, says that because eArmyU is going through a rebid
making it easier to complete the courses on her own                                                process she cannot comment about any potential changes in
schedule.                                                                                          the program.
"It looked like it had a good program that was easy to figure                                      A. Frank Mayadas, director of the Alfred P. Sloan
out, and it seemed geared toward military students                                                 Foundation's grant program for online education, is chairman
specifically," Ms. Johnson says. "Being here, it's hard to get                                     of an eArmyU advisory group called the Council on Academic
faxes and stuff out. But I was able to e-mail all my                                               Management. He says he hopes that the next contractor will
information."                                                                                      help the program add many more institutions. The sticking
She says registering for classes and keeping up with her                                           point, he says, is getting the institutions to recognize one
studies have gone pretty smoothly — for the most part: "I                                          another's courses in transferring credits. "It would be good for
haven't gotten one of my books because there was a bomb                                            the Army to have a larger number of schools than it has right
at the Istanbul airport.”                                                                          now," Mr. Mayadas says. "This is a new world. It's going to
Following the success of for-profit institutions, more nonprofit
colleges are now seeking out military students for their online                                    For some institutions, providing distance education to military
programs. Pennsylvania State University's World Campus,                                            students was a natural extension of what they were doing
an online division of the university system, has only been                                         already.
activelycourting military students for the past two years, says                                    Old Dominion University is located next to the Naval Station
Ginny Newman, assistant director for military education at                                         Norfolk, the largest Navy base in the world, so the institution
Penn State.                                                                                        is used to serving sailors. As the university has ventured into
The growth has been steep, she says. During the 2004-5                                             distance education, officials have made sure the sailors
academic year, 132 military students enrolled in online                                            could take their courses along on submarines and aircraft
courses at the university. That number grew to at least 245                                        carriers.
this past academic year, and Ms. Newman says she expects                                           To meet the needs of students with limited Internet access,
that number to be even bigger when the official enrollment                                         Old Dominion continues to teach many of its courses through

    Grantham University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). For more information, visit or call 1-800-955-2527.
satellite feeds and CD-ROM's that provide lectures, video                                          move again, though she is not sure where yet, to complete
clips, and classroom demonstrations, as it has done since                                          her clinical rotation for her degree at the University of
before online courses were popular, says David L. Chase,                                           Cincinnati. To do that, she plans to take leave from the Navy
director of military distance learning at the university.                                          for about a month — time usually reserved for vacation.
Navy ships are equipped to retrieve the satellite signal for the                                   The day she finally leaves the military, she says, she will be
sailors taking the courses. And when test time rolls around,                                       in a much better position to get the sort of job she wants
the exams are already stored on the ships' computers so                                            working in a research hospital. "It's worked out well, really
they can be administered by the students' commanding                                               better than I expected," Ms. Ruiz says. "Thank God for the
officer.                                                                                           Internet."
Although those technologies seem to work well for many
students, some are demanding online courses so they can                                            About Grantham University:
complete the work on their own time — a term education                                             Established in 1951, Grantham University is a private institution that
officials call asynchronous education. Old Dominion is                                             specializes in educating the working adult student. Its mission is to
working to meet that demand, Mr. Chase says.                                                       'level the playing field' by making a high quality college education
                                                                                                   available to adult learners based on the combined academic and
"We do not have a large menu of asynchronous programs at                                           economic principles of Accessibility, Afford ability and Academic
the moment, but we're pedaling furiously to make more and                                          Accountability. Grantham University offers military scholarships for
more of that available," Mr. Chase says.                                                           active duty, reserve, guard, veterans and military family members,
The University of Phoenix Online has a separate division that                                      as well as scholarships for law enforcement professionals.
handles military students. Mike Bibbee, the Phoenix vice                                           Grantham's courses are online and self-paced, allowing students to
president who oversees that division, says all its enrollment                                      study at home, at work, on Temporary Duty (TDY) or from almost
counselors are former members of the military, so they can                                         anywhere in the world. Grantham University is accredited by the
relate to the students as well as understand all the                                               Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training
confounding military jargon.                                                                       Council (DETC). For more information, visit or
                                                                                                   call 1-800-955-2527.
"They understand how difficult it is to get your education
                                                                                                                                                           PRI-2007-125 ver: thechronicle7706
while you're in the service," Mr. Bibbee says. "And best of all,
they speak the language."
The Military Division enrolls about 16,500 students of 99,500
total students at Phoenix Online. Many of the military
students are younger than the average Phoenix enrollees,
who are often in their 30s. So the university spends more
time working with the students to help them adapt to online
education, which can be more difficult than classroom-based
education because the courses often involve more reading
and interaction among students through chats and
discussion boards.
Few Private Colleges
Not all institutions with distance-education programs are
marketing to military students. Many large private universities
are too expensive for a majority of members of the military.
And even with so many potential military students, growth will
be limited over the years, says Wallace E. Boston Jr.,
president of the American Public University System, which
oversees American Military University. After all, he says, the
number of military personnel is kept pretty constant by the
U.S. government.
“It doesn't grow much, even during times of war," Mr. Boston
says. "That number is pretty tightly controlled by Congress.”
For colleges that are seeking more military students, the best
marketing tool seems to be satisfied customers. Yoram
Neumann, chief executive and provost of Touro University
International, says that most new students who are in the
military usually find out about the university more through
word of mouth than through the advertisements it places in
Army Times and Stars & Stripes.
Petty Officer Ruiz, now that she is back in the United States,
seems like a satisfied customer. She expects to have to

    Grantham University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). For more information, visit or call 1-800-955-2527.

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